I remember walking down a cobbled street looking around at the small boutique shops on either side of the road, marveling at how old these streets were – that the Romans probably trod on those very roads centuries ago, and there I was – the quintessential tourist using my phone to shoot buildings and random stuff that caught my eye. A small hole-in-the-wall catches my eye, and I see the picture of a cannoli outside. I drag my colleagues (it was a business trip) into it and savour my first Italian cannoli. The fried dough is crisp and almost bland against the cloyingly sweet clotted cream coated with pistachios – what a wonderful welcome to Verona, Italy.
Verona is a centuries-old city in the North of Italy – probably most well-known for its Shakespeare associations. But, it has more than that to it – the pretty Piazzas, the dramatically lit Amphitheatre that dates back to the 1st century, and the tiny meandering lanes that all lead somewhere interesting. This May, I visited the city for the first time while on a business trip. Three days, and I was hooked. Here’s a lowdown of what you can do in Verona, Italy.
Visit Piazza bra & eat pizza
Piazza bra is pretty much the centre of the city. It is constantly bustling with people dining along the street, walking into the web of tiny lanes lined with boutiques and gelato shops, or simply hanging around the Arena di Verona.
This is where I also had the best pizza! There is pizza, and there is pizza in Italy. You go through life first believing that Pizza Hut has the best pizza, then you move to Dominos and then a slight upgrade to Papa Johns and finally Pizza Express – all the time believing at every stage that this is the pinnacle. But then, you go to Italy and BAM! Every notion you had of the perfect pizza is lost, and you wonder whether you can even enjoy the aforementioned bastardised versions anymore. My first pizza in Italy and Verona was such a revelation – I had it at the Oliva at Piazza Bra – a perfect, bendy crust, minimal sauce, basic toppings and the best cheese ever! Topped it with a chili infused oil, and I was in heaven.
We also had a business meal at Ristorante Vittorio Emanuele for a wonderful Northern Italian fine dining experience.
Visit Piazza delle Erbe
The city square – Piazza delle Erbe is not too far away from Piazza bra; it bustles with activity, too. You have immigrant hawkers on the streets selling trinkets at exorbitant rates, a fountain that is filled with the pigeons that seem to be everywhere, and old municipal buildings that were once monuments of great historical significance.
Check out the Arena di Verona
The Roman Amphitheatre might look like a dilapidated structure, but that is just part of its charm. In the evening it is lit up and becomes the centre of attraction in the Piazza. Till date it continues to hold and organise large scale operas.
Eat lots of gelato
This applies to everywhere you go in Italy. Eat the gelato at every possible shop. Try every possible flavour – my favourite is dark chocolate and coconut comes a close second. We tried Venchi in Verona and it was perfect – the Musk Melon flavour was quite a pleasant surprise too.
Check out Juliet’s balcony
As cheesy as it sounds and looks, this is a serious tourist attraction on the way to Piazza delle Erbe. It is common knowledge that Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo & Juliet is based on two feuding families from Verona. As a result, an ancient balcony in a small courtyard is a memorial to this story – and tourists flock there.
Visit Museo di Castelvecchio
Constructed along River Adige, Castelvecchio is an old castle and museum in Verona characterized by a red brick construction. It was built in the 12th century and is complete with a beautiful bridge that was built over the river.
Since I was on a business trip, this is all I was able to see. But there is Lake Garda, the Verona Cathedral, the Medieval Belltower, Piazza dei Signori, etc. Go visit them; I’m sure they are worth it.
I leave you with some tips and few more pics of the beautiful Verona.
- Some basic knowledge of the Italian language works
- Google Maps is your friend, hence pick up sim cards with unlimited internet
- Verona has a pretty decent bus transport system, where you can buy tickets on the bus